SIX Pitfalls Impacting Advertising Success

Terry Villines SVP PhaseOne

This week’s guest post from PhaseOne Communications’ Senior Vice-President Terry Villines, shares some of their learnings on successful communications and how to avoid the six most common pitfalls.

General Motors made big news this month by first announcing that it was pulling its advertising off Facebook.  This was quickly followed by the news it would no longer advertise on the Super Bowl – the one television program that actually attracts audiences to watch the commercials.

Because these two events happened almost simultaneously, it is clear General Motors’ research had determined that these outlets were ineffective in moving their target audience closer to their br ands.  Yet, one might question if it was the outlet that was ineffective or the messages used on those channels that were ineffective.  I think Ford captured it all in their recent tweet: “It’s all about the execution.  Our Facebook ads are effective when strategically combined with engaging content & innovation.”

Why is Ford finding success and GM is pulling out?  In a recent study of over 160 advertising messages covering multiple media, PhaseOne identified 6 pitfalls that prevent advertising success.  When these advertisements were clustered into groups of successful and unsuccessful as measured through quantitative metrics, we found that 4X as many ads with at least one of these pitfalls fell into the low performing category. Could it be possible that General Motors’ advertising contained at least one of these Serious Overriding Communication Issues that led them to conclude Facebook wasn’t working for them?

1) Lack of Clarity

A fundamental tenet of communication is clarity.  Yet, 20% of the ads in this base had elements that were unclear.  These ranged from an unclear situation to trying to convey too many ideas.  Remember, your audience has a short attention span.  In most instances, they aren’t seeking out your message.  If you make them work to underst and what you are trying to do, they will probably just tune out.

2) Turn Offs

The clutter of advertising messages bombarding our targets today requires unique creativity to grab attention.  Unfortunately, a ploy often used to break through is shock value – incorporating into the advertising message vulgarity, rudeness, and sexist comments just to name a few.  While these antics might get your ad noticed, there is a high and equal risk it could alienate the very target you are trying to reach.

3) BORING Ads.

All good advertising is built upon a strong creative brief with a well thought out br and proposition.  But, your advertising shouldn’t be a literal interpretation of that brief listing your core proposition and reasons to believe.  Harness the power of your ad agency to bring the brief to life.

4) Failure to Establish the Product Category

Having an ad that creates a strong desire for your br and without letting your audience know where they can find it is the same as creating a bad ad.  They both result in poor in-market results.  This is especially true for new products / br ands with which your audience is unfamiliar.   Even the most subtle cue to your category or distribution channels can make the difference between success and failure.

5) Weak Br anding

Let’s not forget why we advertise – to promote our br ands.  How many times have you described an entertaining ad to a friend but had no idea of the br and?  We found that 62% of low performing advertisements suffered from low br anding.  The solution isn’t necessarily br and early and often.  Yes, that helps, but more importantly, it is about integration.  Be sure your br and has a role within the creative situation.

6) No Clear Reason to Buy

Great advertising is more than well-br anded breakthrough creative.  Its goal is to bring your target closer to your br and, provide your audience with a way to think about your br and relative to other options, and elicit an emotional response.  Successful advertising not only carves out a unique position for your br and in the target’s psyche, it also must lay the groundwork for the br and to OWN that intended idea.  As you plan out your br and story, don’t forget to consider how your br and can OWN (what reasons to believe can you provide?) the image or proposition.

With this learning, it makes you wonder what other very effective channels may have been dismissed when it wasn’t the channel at all – it was a poorly constructed message.

How common do you think these points are? Have you come across these or others and if so how did you resolve the issue? Please share your own stories here.

For more on communicating effectively with your target audience, don’t forget to check out our website  and contact us for an informal chat on how we can support the optimisation of your own communications.

4 thoughts on “SIX Pitfalls Impacting Advertising Success

  1. Great post! I think the greatest pitfall could be that companies do not understand push marketing no longer is as effective as it was. It’s all about attraction marketing and what’s in it for them (meaning the audience). Ford manages to listen carefully to their target audience and rewards hem with very entertaining content. A great example is their very successful spokes puppet Doug. Mashable has written a great article about this: Thanks again for your post 🙂

  2. Juan — great point!  Further proof that success is depedent upon the RIGHT content on the RIGHT channel.  Too many companies “assume” the content is right and blame the channel if it doesn’t work.  In today’s world, brands need have a conversation with their customer not at them.  Thank you!

  3. Recently I was in the U.S. and got annoyed by too many TV ads during commercial breaks. Moreover, many of them repeated themselves over and over in almost every commercial block. It was the same 10 years ago, when I temporarily lived over there, and it’s the same today. I still wonder how this approach can work. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to keep the number of ads within a commercial set down and to alternate the set more often? No doubt that a substantial proportion of TV networks profits comes from the ads, but doesn’t it happen at the expense of ads effectiveness? 

  4. Thanks for your comment Jana. 
    Yes it is definitely a different world in the US compared with Europe, and I hope this is due to cultural differences. 
    Thanks also for your great question. My own personal thought is that the US is stuck in a repeat cyle without sufficient data to identify the most impactful and effective ways of communicating. 
    Any of our US followers like to respond to Jana’s question? 

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